According to Webster’s, consistency is “the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.” And in the world of food establishments in Northern Nevada, that would define the food, since 2005, at Duke’s Steak House. There’s a full bar, exceptional wine list, and a professional wait staff, white linens, seating for 135, and a private dinning room available.
Executive Chef Patrick Nelson and room Chef Matt Tipton pay a lot of attention to the food they turn out. Court Cardinal is not just a VP and GM of Casino Fandango, but a guy who spent a lot of his career as a food and beverage manager in the casino world and a guy who still has the burning passion for exceptional food and wine.
Starting with the Caesar salad ($8), fresh Romaine with a classic dressing and extra anchovies, per my request, this unique offering was served in a molded bowl of Parmesan cheese. Not only was the garlic subtle but breaking the bowl added a crunchy texture with a slight bite from the cheese.
My appetizer was a mini beef Wellington ($10). Flaky crust with medium rare filet inside topped with a classic Bordelaise sauce. A French sauce, made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter and shallots. It added a savory, rich flavor with a hint of red wine tasting throughout your mouth.
My entrée was a steak with a choice of nine different cuts. I chose the six ounce ($22) medium rare. The meat is corn-fed, all natural, Angus Prime dry-aged for 28 days in Duke’s own dry-aging room. Grilled over real wood, a combination of hickory, oak and mesquite, it doesn’t get any better if you’re a carnivore.
You could cut it with a butter knife and it had a smoky wood flavor. I rest my case. You can have Béarnaise of Gorgonzola demi-glace on top, but why?
All entrées are served with soup or salad, vegetable and starch, but Cardinal pointed me to a couple of epicurean sides—gorgonzola stuffed potato ($4) and Jay’s Iowa sweet corn ($4). The potato was whipped with veined Italian blue cheese made from un-skimmed cow’s and goat’s milk. The flavor profile was buttery and a bit salty, with a “bite” from its blue veining complementing the meat perfectly.
The corn is a story itself. White corn boiled, cut from the husk, sautéed with butter and a pinch of sugar then blended with cream cheese. It couldn’t get any better—it was a-maize-ing.
The great wine list has a nice selection of by-the-glass ($6.50 - $17.50). I went with the Antigal Uno Malbec ($9.75) from Argentina, something different and interesting with its intense red color with violet tones. There were aromas of wild berry and dark plum that continued to the palate, with smoke and vanilla joining through the persistent finish with light espresso bitterness.
What makes a great steakhouse? It must be dark, the consumption of red meat is such a primal, bodily act that darkness—like darkness in the bedroom—opens one up to experience pleasure with reckless abandon. It would need to have the best quality meat, and attentive but not bothersome waiters. Finally, you should leave full in a deep way, the way you might feel, for example, after reading a 1,000-page novel. A great steakhouse isn’t Charlotte’s Web. It’s Gone with the Wind. If someone takes your picture at the end of the meal, you should radiate warmth and good cheer. Duke’s is a great steakhouse.